Nearly twenty years ago, I stood on a table in the back of the prison chapel, next to a tripod with a VHS camera mounted on top. From there I could see everything in the room. What I recorded would be broadcast throughout the entire institution, into the hospital, into the psych ward, into the units.
On Sunday mornings, I watched Italian mobsters bow before the image of Mother Mary and beg forgiveness while Father David delivered mass. Later, Lloyd and Nita, volunteers for over thirty years, would lead singing in the Protestant service, led by either a Baptist or Pentecostal chaplain.
On Wednesday evenings, a simple Bible study was led by sincere and loving volunteers. On Thursdays nights, Lloyd and Nita were back, with half a dozen other volunteers, in a simple testimony and prayer service. The volunteers gave the inmates a sense of love and normalcy. Those folks cared. They prayed. They loved.
On Tuesday nights, though, that’s when the Spirit moved. Volunteers from a small holiness church came on Tuesday nights and delivered fire. They never failed to preach a sermon about repentance and forgiveness. They minced no words. Their message was, “You and your filthy sin put yourself into prison. You only have yourself to blame. And, only God can deliver your soul and give you freedom.”
Of course, the freedom of which they spoke was freedom from sin, not physical release from prison. Every week, the altars would fill up with gang members and drug dealers, angry young men and watery-eyed old men, who would fall to their knees and cry out to their Father for love, understanding, and forgiveness.
And they would find it.
God is the God of Hope. He has a soft spot in His heart for sinners. He reaches out to those in prison. He loves them and forgives them when they repent.
Oh. By the way… Most of us are in prison. A prison of sin.
God will free us from sin if we cry out to Him.
Fear not, for in our God is Hope.